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Venezuela's financial accountability authority probes Guaido

Venezuela's office of financial accountability said on Monday it has opened an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaido's income.

[CARACAS] Venezuela's office of financial accountability said on Monday it has opened an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaido's income.

The agency's chief, Elvis Amoroso, said that Mr Guaido, who has been recognised as Venezuela's interim president by around 50 countries, "allegedly ... received money from international and national bodies without any justification."

Mr Amoroso, an official close to the regime of President Nicolas Maduro, whom Mr Guaido is trying to dislodge, said the parliament speaker is suspected of having "hidden or falsified data in his declaration of assets."

If found guilty by the state comptroller, Mr Guaido could face either a fine or be disqualified from public office.

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A lawyer told AFP that the public prosecutor could also open a criminal case against Mr Guaido if it's decided that any of the accusations against him constitute a crime.

The news came as Mr Guaido steps up his challenge to Mr Maduro's authority with their power struggle playing out over the issue of humanitarian aid.

Mr Maduro has overseen an economic meltdown in oi-rich Venezuela, where millions of people are suffering from a lack of basic necessities and failing public services.

Mr Guaido is trying to bring in desperately-needed food and medicines currently stored just over the border in Colombia, while his aides announced on Monday that agreement has been reached to open a second collection centre in Brazil.

So far, Venezuela's military, which has repeatedly pledged loyalty to Mr Maduro, is preventing the Colombian-based aid from entering the country.

Analysts have said Mr Guaido's position would be strengthened if he successfully brings in aid and he has frequently called on the military to switch sides.

He is trying to force out Mr Maduro so he can set up a transitional government ahead of new elections.

Amoroso said the investigation into Mr Guaido following numerous complaints against the National Assembly president, without specifying who made them.

He said Venezuela's constitution "establishes that National Assembly deputies are full-time, they cannot receive any type of payment from other work, either public or private."

The Supreme Court, dominated by regime loyalists, stripped the National Assembly of its powers in 2016, effectively sidelining the opposition-controlled legislative body.

Venezuela lurched into a political crisis when Mr Guaido proclaimed himself acting president on January 23 after parliament declared Mr Maduro a "usurper."

A week later, the Supreme Court banned Mr Guaido from leaving the country and froze his assets, accusing him of "usurping" Mr Maduro's functions.